Moving through into Autumn has been quite mild. There have been a few bumble bees out in November which I’m sure is quite late in the year for them. During mild weather the grass will still grow slowly which benefits the deer although grass is less nutritional this time of year. Sugar content in grass is at it’s highest in the spring and the deer will graze on the grass and produce big round tummies. Some other foods that they turn to are tree leaves, preferring ash and willow, but also sycamore if a branch drops down. Deer are also partial to a bit of Ivy, bramble and even nip off the tops of stinging nettles. The rut is now over, but the males still seem to enjoy using their antlers to mess about with our litter bins and just recently the zip wire swing seat. Most times when I spot the deer they seem to disappear, but here is a photo of one who was very obliging for the camera, happy to pose during the rut season.

It's been another good year for Green Woodpeckers. Numbers were down a few years ago, but they seem to be abundant this year. I always find it a bit tricky getting a photo of one as they seem to take off from the ground and that's when I spot them, a bit too late. They spend time on the ground feeding on ants. I did manage to get a photo of one clinging to a building. I'm not sure what the attraction was on the bricks though or perhaps it thought it was camouflaged! The buzzards are not around quite so much. I still manage see one on occasions and the other day a Red Kite flew over me quite low. This photo of the buzzard amused me, it was so busy watching a heron that it didn't notice me behind it. It’s sitting on top of our wildlife tower. I had to make a noise to make it look round.

I still see a fox now and again. This one in the photo was busy concentrating on a possible vole or mouse that it could hear in the long grass. It pounced a couple of times without success. Whilst it was concentrating so hard it gave me an opportunity to get a bit closer. I put my hood up and kept my camera to my face in the hope that it wouldn't recognise me as a person. I stood as still as a statue and once or twice the fox stared at me trying to make out what I was. You can see in the photo the curious look on its face.

The arrival of winter visiting birds is here and so are the flocks of siskins and goldfinches mixed together. I will try to get some photos of them soon, something that I’m not so successful at due to them being so high up in the trees.I seem to be more successful with the larger birds like the heron sitting there still and not flitting about like the smaller birds. 

I did manage to spot a nuthatch in the woodland at New Hill, it’s the first time I've seen one at the Mills even thoughI knew we had them. Nuthatches are the only UK bird that can climb down a tree trunk head first. It often pays off to stand still, listen and watch for a while. This is not my best photo, but still my first one of a nuthatch. I will be looking out for some more stories to bring you in the next update and hopefully some good photos too.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist